Standard Heating & Air Conditioning’s history goes back to the 1920s, when a door-to-door salesperson rang the bell at the Ferrara family home in Northeast Minneapolis, Minnesota. Anthony “Tony” Ferrara’s mother said that she would be interested in allowing the heating equipment company to work on their home if they would consider hiring her son.
A few years later, after gaining experience working for the heating equipment manufacturer, Tony Ferrara founded Standard Heating & Air Conditioning in 1930, working out of his parents’ backyard. The family business has been serving residential customers in the Twin Cities ever since. Today, the business is co-owned by brothers Ted and Todd Ferrara.
The HVAC specialists focus on repair, replacement, and maintenance of all brands of heating and cooling systems. Their mission statement is “Making lives better through the practice of our trades.” Their values are integrity, service, expertise, and character. At the business’ core is the belief that whether you are a customer or employee of Standard Heating, your life should be bettered because of the interactions you have with the company. Consequently, the business is heavily involved in charitable and community work.
One of Standard Heating’s unique programs is called the “5 for $25 Drive.” In exchange for a customer taking five minutes of their time to write a review of the business, Standard Heating will donate $25 to a non-profit of the customer’s choice, on the customer’s behalf.
“Last year we donated over $10,000 to local charities through the “5 for $25” program These include causes related to the Animal Humane Society, public radio, veterans, education-focused organizations, housing and family organizations,” says Claire Ferrara, Customer Experience Manager.
The reviews left by customers are unfiltered and are prominently displayed for all employees to see. Standard Heating & Air Conditioning is happy to receive honest feedback, whether positive or negative, to help the company improve and maintain its high level of customer service. Additionally, many new customers are also referred to the business due to reviews they have seen online. The 5 for $25 program is not only a smart business model, but is one of many ways that the company stays involved in the Greater Minneapolis community from its two corporate locations in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
As a member of the Minnesota Keystone Program, Standard Heating dedicates five percent of its profits to charitable donations annually, and has done so since the 1980s. Other initiatives include an internal employee donation matching program, food drives to support local food shelters, and in-kind donations.
In the last year alone, Standard Heating donated over 500 lbs. of food to a local senior citizens’ organization. It participated in “The Sandwich Project,” making 1,400 sandwiches that were given to the Twin Cities’ homeless population. It gave heating and air conditioning systems to non-profit organizations within the Twin Cities Metro Area, such as Homeward Bound (a non-profit that provides housing to people with disabilities) and completed service work for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans, which helps veterans in need of housing.
Standard Heating has worked with Homeward Bound and the Veterans Council for many years, and involves the entire company of about 80 people in these charitable efforts. Giving back to the community is an integral part of Standard Heating’s culture.
Along with that comes Standard Heating’s dedication to the trades. Claire Ferrara (whose grandfather started the company) as well as her father, Ted Ferrara, and uncle Todd Ferrara (who both currently own the business) serve on the boards of, and participate in mentorship programs at, several of the local vocational and trade schools in the Twin Cities. They, as well as some of the other management at Standard Heating, also are involved with the schools’ PACs, or Program Advisory Committees, where they advise the programs on what is happening in the industry, hiring practices, and what future students of the trades should be learning.
“We’ve been doing this for a long time. Three governors have appointed me to the state’s Apprenticeship Advisory Board, and we’ve served on PACs or technical advisory committees over the years… but the reality is that high schools are failing,” Owner Todd Ferrara reveals.
Part of Standard Heating’s community involvement includes helping students become interested in the trades. “I went to trade school and there were not many women in my class. I’m very passionate about getting more women into the trades. We have a growing population of women in the office and in the field here who supervise people, make important decisions, and do the physical work right next to the men,” remarks Claire Ferrara.
“It is important to have a culture that attracts diversity, and these women have made us a better organization, especially for the younger men. It has changed the men in a very positive way,” Todd adds.
Standard Heating & Air Conditioning’s longevity in the industry and the values it espouses are proof that the trades present a real opportunity for men and women to earn an honest living while doing work they can take pride in.
“The trades sometimes get a bad rap. ‘It’s really hard work. It’s dirty work. It’s the work of our grandfathers and the world is different today.’ I just wish that people understood what an opportunity it is because the trades in general, whether HVAC or plumbing or electrical, are a place you can make a great living. Beyond that, they provide an opportunity to work with great teams and to have personal and professional development. We can literally build the world around us, and I think that gets lost on people. I’m not sure why, but I hope we can change that perception by being the kind of business that we are,” Claire notes.
Standard Heating & Air Conditioning has served hundreds of thousands of customers and has won a number of awards since it opened its doors almost 90 years ago. Recent achievements include being honored by the Minnesota Keystone Program, making the Minneapolis Happening List, and being among five percent of heating and cooling companies in the Twin Cities market to perform consistently well enough to earn Angie’s Super Service Award. But Todd Ferrara tells us that as succession planning has been a critical cornerstone of Standard Heating’s success, what he is most excited about is having Claire Ferrara present in the business.
“The newest, most innovative thing is bringing in another generation of people to manage and make decisions, and hopefully someday start to take over. There are other business accomplishments that we have made, but that has been the most influential change in the past five to six years, making a difference every day in our culture.”
Looking forward to the next generation of workers, Standard Heating’s ownership has a long-term focus. The company’s goal is to make sure that when it gets a new customer, it keeps that customer for life. As Customer Experience Manager, Claire focuses on the satisfaction of both external and internal customers.
“We believe really strongly that you have to take care of your internal customers, your employees. They have to be happy, motivated, and feel good about coming to work every day. We have to purposefully develop an internal customer experience to set ourselves up for success,” Claire states. “The other side of that is to be sure that we are supporting our external customers, the people who buy from us, making sure that everything we are doing benefits that customer and actually makes their life better.”
The Standard Heating & Air Conditioning team strives toward the betterment of the community every single day, through its exceptional customer service and beyond. “A lot of people can at least try to do that, but it’s another thing to say, ‘How do we take it to the next level? How do we make this different, and make it so that once they do business with us they will never go anywhere else?’ We want people to come here to work and never leave here. We want people to buy from us and never buy from anywhere else. We want lifetime customer loyalty, both internally and externally,” Claire emphasizes.
Enriching the lives of its customers, its community, and of course, its own team, Standard Heating & Air Conditioning continues to leave an impactful legacy in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.
“Our goal is to be a trusted employer and vendor of choice. When you ask people to come into your home and do work, that’s a pretty intimate experience; you have to treat people with respect and dignity. We try to build that type of culture here, and that matters to our customers and our fellow employees,” Todd states.